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When I was approached about writing an article from the “Millennial” perspective explaining my thoughts on the mortgage industry, buying a house, taking out loans, etc., my response was, “What thoughts?”
As shocking (and quite honestly, shameful) as it may seem, I believe this—let’s call it, the Millennial Mindset—is common among all individuals in the 18- to 30-year-old range. So what exactly is this Millennial Mindset? Well, drawing from my personal experience and the collective experiences of those around me, I would define it as a frame-of-mind cultivated by notions of immediate gratification, as perpetuated by our fast-paced, high-tech American society.
I am certain that some of you Baby-Boomers have watched your beautiful, innocent, bike-riding children evolve into tech-mongering teens (notice that I say “watched” because I can bet that most of you have not yet managed to shatter the barrier between you and your kids—I am referring to the thin glass of their iPhone screens—leaving you to sit by hopelessly and watch, rather than engage. But don’t worry, they will come around … when their Pokémon Go crashes and they have nothing else to do besides sit and chat with Ole Pop).
All joking aside, “breaking through” is a difficult feat and you are most certainly not to blame … and honestly, neither are we. With societal pressures to get our BA (Masters, Ph.D.), land a lucrative career and a lifelong partner, on top of recent technological advancements: Instagram, Tinder, Facebook, Snapchat, etc., there is simply no chance of getting us to expend our energy upon something that will not affect us RIGHT NOW. How can we look at the bigger picture when the world around us is demanding that we look at a two-inch by five-inch inch screen? My theory is, the instant gratification that our cellphones and laptops provide have conditioned our brains to operate in short-term timespans.
Now, I am a 21-year-old UCLA student currently gunning for two BA’s—one in communications and the other in Italian—while simultaneously holding down the fort at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, managing several organizations on campus, and doing freelance writing projects on the side. I have also been fortunate enough to grow up in an incredible household with loving, supportive, and communicative parents and an older brother whom I have watched deal with the ups and downs of adulthood—more often than not surfing the waves of the mortgage industry, trying to stay above water. On paper, one would say I have been supplied with the proper tools and experiences to approach my future with confidence, stability, and patience. However, despite my efforts (and theirs), I still find myself overdosing on Starbucks, In-N-Out and shoes, consequently rummaging through my pockets and old birthday cards at the end of the month, searching for spare change to make rent for my overpriced, LA apartment. No matter how responsible, well-rounded or prepared I consider myself, when it comes to matters of saving and investment—I am simply hopeless.
The truth is, the only matters of loans and investment that we Millennials are concerned with, are those pertaining to our college educations. Regardless of how quickly we would like to jump into our futures … there is still that looming, dark presence clouding any sense of hope (aka college debt). If one were to ask us about alleviating the stress of future prospects, I can guarantee the first thing on our list is not buying a house, it is escaping that seemingly perpetual doom. However, what we tend to forget is: Just because we are completely consumed by this struggle, it does not mean all other struggles are at a standstill waiting patiently until we get safely situated in the saddle. In fact, they are currently snowballing alongside us and if we do not address them now, the black hole of adulthood will swallow us whole. With that said, I can assure you that most of us would rather wait until we are in the middle of that black hole, moneyless and homeless, to address it—at which point we will come banging down the doors of the nearest mortgage company, begging the loan officer for help.
Now this is one method, but it is certainly not the most efficient or healthiest regarding long-term goals. Gradual investment is practically a foreign concept to the Millennial generation, as we need to learn to walk before we can run and embrace the necessary baby steps toward that white picket fence (or if you are like me, toward that 1960s post-modern home). This is where you come in.
As I said, we will come running when the times comes, but you can do more than sit around hoping that the doors we bang down happen to be those of your mortgage group. It is all about planting the initial seed. Be it an Instagram ad, or a workshop on our college campuses, you have to convince us that mortgage loans are easy, simple, accessible … and that you are different from the thousands of other companies inundating our inboxes with complex advertisements. Quite honestly, I could not care less about advertisements reading, “Do you need help lowering your annual percentage rate?” or “Are you looking to take out an adjustable-rate mortgage loan?” That might as well be written in a Slavic language. I would much sooner respond to something that said: “Scared sh#@less about the day you are going to buy a house?” or “Sinking in college debt, and trying to evade further homeowner debt? Even, We bet you never thought about the day you’re going to buy a house until you read this ad … fear not: XYZ Mortgage Group is here to save the day.” Obviously, these taglines are a little rough around the edges, but you get the point.
As silly as it sounds, what would resonate with me is something that does not criticize me for being clueless. In fact, I would like to be reassured that there is a team out there that is going to cater to my lack of knowledge and ease me into the mortgage process. At the same time, I do not want to spend hours learning the ins and outs of the mortgage industry. I do not have time for a five-course meal. I want a nice, super food protein shake that I can sip on my way to class.
Given the two features of the Millennial Mindset that I have discussed: Short-term thinking and technological adeptness, these are the two methods I suggest for breaking through:
Reshaping your approach
Given that Millennials operate on different wavelengths than say, middle-aged, middle-class Americans, it is necessary to form a youth-friendly program that simply and efficiently educates new home-hunters on the process of acquiring and qualifying for loans and taking out a mortgage. Such a program might work best in the form of small two-hour workshops or free consultations that give us a basic idea of what we are getting ourselves into. The key here is basic. This does not mean speaking to us like you would your life-long clients or colleagues. You must remember that most of the people you are dealing with will have no prior knowledge of the industry. Essentially, XYZ Mortgage Group needs to be the Carl Sagan that explains quantum physics and astronomy (mortgage matters) to the layman. Once we bite, then you can reel us in with more in-depth knowledge and personalized advice.
Another key component of “reshaping” your approach is your aesthetic. As I have stated previously, this is a tech-generation—which means a generation constantly exposed to the glamorous high-life via Instagram and Tumblr. Consequently, we are attracted to pretty, shiny things—not things that look academic. I am not advocating a total departure from your pre-existing marketing strategy, just an additional, slightly adapted branch. If you develop specific programs that target the Millennial audience, your publicity and marketing should also fit the bill. Personally, I would aim toward simple, sleek and contemporary—no Times New Roman. I would also consider hiring a photographer or freelance filmmaker who could whip up a series of photographs and a short video featuring hip, young adults embarking on their mortgage journey.
Planting the seed
As I said before, we most likely will not approach you until we are in the thick of our struggle. With that said, have you ever heard of priming? It is a psychological term referring to an implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus influences a response to a later stimulus. In other words, if you plant the seed early on, the first time we hear the term “APR” in our newfound house-hunting mental state, XYZ Mortgage Group will be the first resource we seek out.
So how exactly do you go about planting this seed?
►Avenue A: Contact places like UCLA’s Bruin Resource Center which offers a variety of services to UCLA students and alumni, running the gamut from Career Help to Housing Support. You can relay the information regarding your program to these centers, leave a little swag at the front door, as well as a schedule for those upcoming two-hour workshops, and before you know it, by forming a relationship with these collegiate resource centers, you have formed a relationship with us college students. If our university has trust in you, why shouldn’t we?
►Avenue B: While not every Millennial is fortunate enough to have the input of their parents, many of us are, and although it seems as though we repel the involvement of our elders in an effort to cultivate our angst-ridden and rebellious image…if we are lazy and clueless, we will more often than not heed our parents advice (even if we’re 30, we’re actually 30-going-on-16). Therefore, I would recommend establishing some sort of parent/child program in which you inform your current, full-fledged adult clients of your new program: “By the way, you mentioned you have an 18-year-old daughter. I just wanted to let you know about our Millennial Mortgage Prep program …” and get them to pass along the information—perhaps you even hold a joint consultation.
►Avenue C: Last, but certainly not least, Instagram ads. It might seem specific, but I guarantee it is worth a shot. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an Instagram. And fortunately for you, the CEOs recently decided to feature advertisements that show up in everyone’s feed. This means that when your precious Millennials are scrolling through the posts of the day, they might stop to watch a 30-second video of a cute, young couple sitting in their old Volkswagen Van with a piggy bank, counting change brainstorming ways to consolidate their finances (a cool new song plays in the background). At the end, the girl jumps into his arms and they spin around revealing their adorable, newly purchased home, at which point the following tagline flashes across the screen: “XYZ Mortgage Group … Making the impossible, possible.”
At the end of the day, it is important that you take my advice with a grain of salt. As I said before, I am a clueless college student—what do I know? With that said, I think that shifting your approach to cater to exactly that—the clueless college student—will get you one step closer to transforming our Millennial Mindset into a Millennial Mortgage Mindset.
Amanda Lucido is a student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she works as an editor and contributor for several literary and art publications, as well as a part-time assistant at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. She is the daughter of Paul Lucido, national marketing director at Paramount Residential Mortgage Group (PRMG).
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.